Intifada on December 9 1987  Term Paper

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The geographic distinctions are important, as the Palestinians are divided geographically, with the Gaza Strip separated from the West Bank by the country of Israel, with more Palestinians living within Israel.

The Fatah faction of the PLO emerged as the one group with sustainable political power, lead by Yasir Arafat. However, marked Islamic fundamentalism, as exemplified by Hamas was an important influence. Various groups had developed in Gaza and in the West bank, and even within the relatively effective Fatah, infighting between those who did not want to compromise with Israel in any way and those who believed gains could be made through compromise was quite marked (Emerson, 1997).


Unfortunately the disagreements between the various factions among the Palestinians has led to serious violence. In 1997 "death squads" went through neighborhoods executing those they felt were aiding the Israelis in some way. Some of these executions were quite brutal. The brutality was justified by calling the victims "collaborators," but some experts feel that a significant number of these murders were based on political or religious differences or as an outgrowth of criminal activity such as suspected involvement with prostitution or drug trafficking (Emerson, 1997). These people were not tried for their crimes in any court of law, but killed on the spot, leaving many Palestinians feeling terrorized by factions of their own population (Emerson, 1997).

Various people pointed fingers in various directions, but since their accusations were at least somewhat self-serving, it may be some time before the whole truth is known. The Israeli military has asserted that Arafat had at least partial control over the Fatah squads. They argue that this is why he never ordered the squads to stop. They point to a press release from Arafat where he called for an end to "unjustified" murders. Since the "death squads typically had some kind of justification for their actions, the Israelis viewed this statement as actually encouraging the murders (Emerson, 1997). Some of the rationalizations for these murders were markedly weak. One member of a death squad said, "We only kill collaborators -- they are worse than the Jews." However, he described "collaborators as "anyone who helps Israel in any way. Even those who buy Israeli products." (Emerson, 1997)

Not all Fatah groups were under Arafat's control. Officials found lists generated in Jordan of Palestinians living in the West Bank who were to be killed or "violently interrogated" (Emerson, 1997). Hamas also had death squads, and their victims were chosen by Gaza's Hamas leaders (Emerson, 1997).

These events demonstrate that although Arafat had risen to the top as the most prominent leader of the Palestinians, he did not have full control over the people he represented. The most violent conflict among the Palestinian groups, in fact, was between Gaza-based Hamas and Fatah, the branch of the PLO headed by Yasir Arafat (Emerson, 1997). One of the reasons Hamas grew in influence was that Arafat supported Saddam Hussein. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of Palestinians being ejected from multiple Arab Gulf countries. It also ended some significant financial support for Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. This situation was seen as so serious by some that it was given the name "the catastrophe," the same term applied to the establishment of Israel as an independent country in 1948.


The first intifada brought significant changes to the reason, including raised awareness among uninvolved countries regarding the plight of the Palestinians. However, this did not happen exclusively because of the intifada. Rather, the intifada was one contributing factor in a complex and changing situation (Bligh, 1999). While infighting among the Palestinians became quite serious, nevertheless, some unifying factors remained. The intifada resulted in greater interest in wearing traditional dress, following traditional dress codes. Embracing religious rules, and adoption of some national values, all of which served to keep some overriding unity among Palestinians (Bligh, 1999). In addition, educational enrollment by Palestinians in Israeli schools increased, as did ties between professionals in Arab and Jewish communities. In particular, other countries increased funding for Palestinian groups. According to Emerson (1997), Hamas receives funds from the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Jihad in both Egypt and Jordan as well as support from various Islamic organizations in Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States (Emerson, 1997).


While the first intifada did not accomplish its most ambitious goal of causing the formation of a Palestinian state, it contributed to defining a formal relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, which in turn allowed a series of peace talks including the Oslo Accords and discussions with Jimmy Carter at Camp David (Bligh, 1999). It led to greater political organization among the Palestinians, and enhanced its status as a legitimate political entity that should be negotiated with throughout the world but especially where it was needed the most - in the Middle East…

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